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The Basin and Towel

with Indispensable Churches and Tending the Light

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The Formational Pastor

Multiple Mindedness and Ministerial Resilience

Here’s an article from “Faith and Leadership” over at Duke University Divinity School on “Multiple Mindedness and Ministerial Resilience”

http://www.faithandleadership.com/content/cynthia-lindner-multiple-mindedness-and-ministerial-resilience?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=headline&utm_campaign=NI_program.

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To sing or not to sing?

I’ve been thinking about music in the liturgy recently.

We have now at our church a new organ, and a very nice person who can play that organ very well.  Up to this point we haven’t had someone who could play the organ very well, so we’ve used CDs of hymns to accompany our singing (they’re well-produced by professional organists, so there’s no issue of quality there).  However, we’ve spoken most of the liturgy and whatever “incidental” music we’ve had has come from a variety of sources.

Now that we have this very nice person who can play that organ very well, I’m wondering about some of that “other” music.  I don’t have answers to these questions, I’m just posing them.  If you have thoughts or answers, I’d love to hear them:

Why is there music while the offering is being collected?  Organists call this an “offertory.”

  • Is it because this is the “special offering” of the organist?  If so, why does the organist get offering envelopes?  If so, why don’t we encourage everybody to bring “special offerings” every Sunday?
  • Is it because we want some sound to cover up the clink of the coins hitting the plates?  Then why is there “offertory” in churches that take up the collection into cloth bags?
  • Is the Offertory just “incidental music”?  If so, why do we need it?
  • Or is there a formative, transformative, worship / adoration purpose for the Offertory?  If so, then probably any old Bach prelude or Maranatha! song won’t do.  If so, then we would do well to carefully choose music that would speak to the relationship of the people to the God who loves them as a prodigally generous Father loves His children.

Why is there music during the distribution of Holy Communion?

  • Is it to give them something to do instead of chatting while they’re waiting for their turn to come to the altar?
  • Our sanctuary is small.  My voice can easily be heard without amplification from the chancel all the way to the narthex.  As I’m giving people Communion, and pronouncing the blessing/dismissal on each group of communicants, everyone in the room can clearly hear it.  If our sanctuary were so large that you couldn’t easily hear that pronouncement, would you need a Communion song so people wouldn’t talk amongst themselves?
  • Do these two questions assume that, if left to themselves, Christians gathered in worship for Holy Communion would be unable to focus on Communion and the desirability of encouraging one another in worship and in their faith?
  • In our small sanctuary, in some services there are lots of people and in some there are not so many.  Sometimes we can sing an entire hymn during Communion, and sometimes we just can’t.  So should this be a consideration – that there are enough people present to make it worthwhile?
  • In our small sanctuary, is it important that the people who are waiting for Communion have something to distract them, or is it important that they have something to focus their worship, or is it important that they be able to hear again and again “This true Body and Blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ strengthen and uphold you in the true faith to life everlasting.  Depart in Peace” whether they are at the altar or not?
  • Is there music during Communion because that’s the tradition, because the organist is expected to play it for some reason?

Why is there music at all, other than to sing hymns with?

  • In a world filled with increasing and often unceasing noise, what would be wrong with the community of God’s people together following His urging to “be still, and know that I am God”?

See?  I don’t know the answers to these questions.  I don’t know that there really are any answers.  I’m just muddling along here, trying to help our folks know the God who loves us a little better.

What do you think?

A Father’s Love

After Jesus, Peter, James and John came down from the Mount of Transfiguration,

14 When they came to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and the teachers of the law arguing with them. 15 As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet him. 16 “What are you arguing with them about?” he asked.
17 A man in the crowd answered, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. 18 Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.”  Mark 9:14-17

I know – the same argument as today, probably.  Did the boy really  have a demon, or did he have epilepsy?  First of all, come on!  Julius Caesar had epilepsy, or something like it, and the Romans all knew it was a disease and not a demon almost a century before this account.  So, let’s take Mark’s word for it that it was a demon (and the Holy Spirit as a corroborating witness, remember).

Now that we got that out of the way, let’s focus on that father.  That poor guy and his son!  Who know how old the son was at this point, but he had had the demon since he was little.  The family had probably gone out of their minds trying to find ways to help him.  If they had lived in our day, they would have gone to one specialist after another, both medical and psychological.  They would have tried a variety of drugs, treatments, and behavioral therapies, all to no avail.  I suspect that this family had been drained of their resources over the years, financially, emotionally, spiritually – and that the boy himself had (as said of another patient of Jesus) “suffered much at the hands of many physicians.”

Now maybe this father comes to Jesus and the disciples in desperation.  This will be their last chance.  He’s run out of options, and has nowhere else to turn.  Trembling with fear and his last ounce of hope, he comes to where he’s heard Jesus is – only to find that He’s out of the office for the day!  He’s up on the mountain with some of the disciples!  The best he can do for his son is hope that the disciples can do something for him – but they can’t.

Can you imagine this father’s heart at the end of that day?  Can you imagine the tears falling from his eyes as he holds his precious son to keep him from being hurt as he falls in another convulsion?  Can you imagine his sorrow and anguish that even this last hope has been empty and futile?  Can you imagine his anger and resentment at the crowd that stands around, impassively and objectively arguing about whether or not the boy has a demon after all, totally ignorant of the toll this has taken on his whole family’s life?

And then, just as he’s about to pick up his son and take him home, along comes Jesus and Peter and James and John, fresh from the top of the mountain.  Jesus asks, What’s going on?  The father tells him.  Jesus sighs, and commands the demon to come out.  The demon thrashes the boy around some, but comes out as commanded.  Everybody can see that the demon has come out and the boy is well.  The father can take him home!

Can you imagine the father’s heart now breaking not for sorrow, but for joy?  Can you imagine the father’s heart not breaking for emptiness, but exploding because it is full of thanksgiving and hope and praise?  Can you imagine the father leaping and skipping and running home, hand in hand with this healthy son, healthy for the first time in years?  Maybe planning to surprise Mother at the door – maybe planning a big party for all the neighbors later – maybe planning already the outings they’ll go on, the sports they’ll play, the adventures they’ll have together, the fun and the love as father and son from now on.

But – what about the “unbelieving generation” comment of Jesus in verse 19?  What’s that all about?  I suppose it could be a sigh of disgust, maybe, that some people take so long to come to Jesus.  Like they see Him like their last resort rather than their first recourse.

Of course, we pastors know what that’s like, don’t we?  People come to us and say things like, “Pastor, the wife and I have decided to get a divorce.  We’ve signed the papers, and we thought you should know.”  We nod, and inwardly groan and wonder why they didn’t come to us earlier in the process?

But truth be told, I do the same thing with Jesus.  He’s often farther down on my “To Call” list than He ought to be, and often when I do reach out to Him it’s only after I’ve reached out to several others.

And yet that’s not where I’m really headed with this post.  Go back for a moment to the paragraph in italics above.  Whether they call us “Father” or not, we pastors often have the kind of relationship with the people Jesus gives to us that causes our hearts to ache for them.  Whether they are our blood children or adopted children or our spiritual children, haven’t there been times when their lives and their situations pierce your own heart like a sword?  Times when you’ve felt like the Prodigal Father trembling with anticipation that today might be the day the lost son is finally found?  Times when perhaps, as someone’s pastor, you’ve thought “if I could be in that hospital bed / Alzheimer’s unit / jail cell instead of you”?

This story touches me at that place in my heart, and I want nothing more than to bring all these children to Jesus for Him to cast out whatever is possessing them so that we can run and play and celebrate His love forever – and Jesus and me with them.

Church and Ministry 2

See the previous post for an explanation of what prompted these reflections.

2.  Describe your understanding of the Office of the Public Ministry

If the church is the Bride of Christ, and Christ is the Bridegroom, those who stand in the Office of the Public Ministry fill the role of the Friend of the Bridegroom.  They take care of the Bride, keeping her safe and protecting her so that she is ready for the wedding.  They take care of the arrangements, the food and drink that the guests will have.  They take care of the guests, providing them with the robes of forgiveness and righteousness that they will need to celebrate this wedding properly and enjoyably.  They make sure everyone has a place and feels welcome in the celebration.

And they look forward with great anticipation to the arrival of the Bridegroom.  He has been away a long time and has entrusted all the arrangements to His Friend.  The Friend is glad of His trust, and wants everything to be good and right.  He is not afraid of losing the approval of the Bridegroom or of disappointing Him; but he is such a Friend to the Bridegroom that He cannot imagine how anyone would not want to join in the celebration.

5.   Describe your pastoral approach and practice

In addition to the basic Friend of the Bridegroom image above, my approach and practice center on the idea that the word “Pastor” means “shepherd.” It does not mean any of the following: chairman, CEO, leader, vision-caster, strategic planner, fixer, analyst, or administrator.  Each of these words carry with it a certain array of tasks to be done and skills to be exercised, but even taken all together they do not entirely comprise the calling that is named “pastor.”  Yet in the United States in this day and age many in the church tend to look outside the church for models of how to operate.  We find exciting, “successful,” and “growing” techniques and images, and turn to them because they give us a sense of accomplishment.  Yet it seems like a shepherd rarely “accomplishes” anything – he just cares for the sheep over a long period of time, without any measure of “success” or “achievement.”  But he probably doesn’t care about those kinds of things, because he just loves the sheep that are entrusted to his care.

My “approach and practice” has been growing in recent years to be much more like a “shepherd.” In the end, I’d be disappointed if people summarized my “pastoral approach and practice” by saying things like “he was a successful pastor” or ‘he knew how to run a church.”  In the end, I’d much rather that people summarized that “approach and practice” by saying things like “we caught glimpses of Jesus in him.”

SermonSeeds: The Father Voice in blessing

A Formational Pastor Post

Ephesians 3:14-21 – RCL New Testament reading for July 29, 2012 (Proper 12 / 9th Sunday after Pentecost

14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge —that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

The people of God over whom we pastor come to us Sunday after Sunday (and sometimes in between) having made it through another week – sometimes just barely.  Some make it by the skin of their teeth.  Some have been beaten up by life, and come licking their wounds.  Some of the wounds are decades old, and they’re still limping from the effects.  We acknowledge their wounds, and sometimes look for the cause so they can be treated appropriately.  But the people of God don’t need us to beat them more with shame or blame or accusations or “shoulda – woulda – couldas” – they’ve already had enough wounding from the rest of the world.  What they need from us is medicine, healing, and caring.  The kind of caring that only Jesus gives.

They come to us again and again not needing to hear our thoughts on the latest movies or TV shows or politics or issues.  They come to us again and again needing to hear words like Saint Paul writes here:  Regardless of what is happening in the rest of the world and the rest of your life, I love you.  I’m praying for you.  I know that God cares for you.  I know that He has riches He is giving you now, that you can’t even see.  If you find it hard to hear the voice of the Father through the noise of the world, listen to it here in these words.  This is the Father’s voice of prodigal love.  Come, soak in it – bask in it – and receive His healing.

So I’m thinking about not preaching this text this Sunday.  This text doesn’t call for exegesis.  Instead, it’s calling “use me to bless the people of God!”  I think I will.

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